Himmler’s Nazi Concentration Camp Guards (Images of War)

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They did not. Benario was the only Jewish block leader chosen by the head guard because political prisoners were known for their organisational skills. Even her end is difficult to fit into a Holocaust narrative. She and Leichter were among 1, women gassed over the course of a few days: Jews, yes, but also infirm and weak prostitutes the asocials, who wore black triangles and criminals who wore green triangles.

They were killed in one of the clandestine euthanasia centres where the Aryan mentally ill and disabled were taken, from the institutions where they had lived, to be murdered; relatives were sent notices that they had died of natural causes. Whatever this represents it is not vernichtung — the rendering into nothing — that was the work of the death camps and the death squads, the Einsatzgruppen.

But none us this gets us very far. Helm never explains why the regime kept it up.

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It is hard to make a general claim based on evidence from so special a place. The Nazi doctors who created wounds in the Polish experimental subjects and infected them with dirt and glass in order to test cures for gas gangrene worked at Auschwitz and used male subjects, too. So much else besides their gender determined the fate of women and men at the hands of the Nazi state. Helm follows their stories. Not now. Both she and her husband were deviationists, more interested in fighting fascism than in party orthodoxy.

In , Stalin handed her over along with other heterodox German communists to Hitler. The name, along with the skull-and-crossbones insignia, was meant to reinforce the idea that the men who bore it were not mere prison guards but front-line soldiers in the Nazi war against enemies of the people.

Now, in the years before actual war came, the K. The metaphor of war encouraged the inhumanity of the S. Particularly hated was the roll call, or Appell , which forced inmates to wake before dawn and stand outside, in all weather, to be counted and recounted. The process could go on for hours, Wachsmann writes, during which the S. The camps were outside ordinary law, answerable not to judges and courts but to the S.

At the same time, they were governed by an extensive set of regulations, which covered everything from their layout including decorative flower beds to the whipping of prisoners, which in theory had to be approved on a case-by-case basis by Himmler personally. Yet these regulations were often ignored by the camp S. Strangely, however, it was possible, in the prewar years, at least, for a guard to be prosecuted for such a killing. In , Paul Zeidler was among a group of guards who strangled a prisoner who had been a prominent churchman and judge; when the case attracted publicity, the S.

He was sentenced to a year in jail. In , Himmler agreed to allow the Red Cross to deliver food parcels to some prisoners in the camps. To send a parcel, however, the Red Cross had to mark it with the name, number, and camp location of the recipient; requests for these details were always refused, so that there was no way to get desperately needed supplies into the camps.

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Even the distinction between guard and prisoner could become blurred. From early on, the S. This system spared the S.

How the Nazis Tried to Cover Up Their Crimes at Auschwitz

In some cases, Kapos became almost as privileged, as violent, and as hated as the S. Mory was sentenced to death but managed to commit suicide first. At the bottom of the K. Once there, however, they found themselves subject to special torments, ranging from running a gantlet of truncheons to heavy labor, like rock-breaking. As the chief enemies in the Nazi imagination, Jews were also the natural targets for spontaneous S. The systematic extermination of Jews, however, took place largely outside the concentration camps.

They had almost no inmates, since the Jews sent there seldom lived longer than a few hours. By contrast, Auschwitz, whose name has become practically a synonym for the Holocaust, was an official K. The first people to be gassed there, in September, , were invalids and Soviet prisoners of war. It became the central site for the deportation and murder of European Jews in , after other camps closed.

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The vast majority of Jews brought to Auschwitz never experienced the camp as prisoners; more than eight hundred thousand of them were gassed upon arrival, in the vast extension of the original camp known as Birkenau. Only those picked as capable of slave labor lived long enough to see Auschwitz from the inside. Many of the horrors associated with Auschwitz—gas chambers, medical experiments, working prisoners to death—had been pioneered in earlier concentration camps.

Oswald Pohl, the S. The most ambitious was the construction of a brick factory near Sachsenhausen, which was intended to produce a hundred and fifty million bricks a year, using cutting-edge equipment and camp labor. The failure of the factory, as Wachsmann describes it, was indicative of the incompetence of the S.

To turn prisoners into effective laborers would have required giving them adequate food and rest, not to mention training and equipment. It would have meant treating them like employees rather than like enemies. But the ideological momentum of the camps made this inconceivable. Labor was seen as a punishment and a weapon, which meant that it had to be extorted under the worst possible circumstances.

But more than this, it is a profound moral and intellectual inquiry into the nature of evil in the human character. Although Adolf Hitler held the ultimate responsibility for what became the Holocaust, it was Heinrich Himmler who essentially laid the plans and devised the schemes that led to the killings of six million Jews. Heinrich Himmler. In a speech to SS generals, he spoke of the extermination of Jews. His handwritten note uses the euphemism Judenevakuierung , meaning evacuation of the Jews. However, in sound recordings of the speech, Himmler defined evacuation as extermination.

In his speech addressing the SS group leaders on October 4, , while in Poznan, Himmler gave his actual thoughts and ideas of how one of his men, on the Waffen SS, should act and hate anyone who was not of their own blood. The purpose of this meeting was to act as a morale-booster for leaders of SS personnel engaged in the monstrous business of the Final Solution. During the course of his speech, Himmler made his now-infamous statement that the Final Solution was to be a never-to-be-written page in our history.

Of course, the irony in this statement is well-known in retrospect, for the Nazis did keep meticulous records of their transports and of camp prisoners, so many that even last-minute attempts at destroying those records could not obliterate the paper trail that linked them inexorably to the murders of millions of Jews and also non-Jews.

The pages of history would be written, to be sure, but not in the manner intended by Heinrich Himmler and his accomplices. Himmler: Whether nations live in prosperity or starve to death interests me only in so far as we need them as slaves for our culture; otherwise, it is of no interest to me. Whether 10, Russian females fall down from exhaustion while digging an anti-tank ditch interest me only in so far as the anti-tank ditch for Germany is finished Himmler: I am talking about the evacuation of the Jews, the extermination of the Jewish people. It is one of those things that is easily said.

Himmler: We came to the question: what to do with the women and children?

Female SS guards employed in concentration camps

I decided to find a clear solution here as well.

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